The term Fourth Estate refers to the press and news media both in explicit capacity of advocacy and implicit ability to frame political issues. Though it is not formally recognised as a part of a political system, it wields significant indirect social influence.
The derivation of the term fourth estate arises from the traditional European concept of the three estates of the realm:
- the clergy;
- the nobility; and,
- the commoners.
It is also used to refer to the separation of powers in government into a legislature, an executive and a judiciary.